BY RATTAN MALL
HERE’S a roundup of events concerning the South Asian community in the first half of 2013. Events of the second half of the year will be carried in the next issue.
Asian Journal was the first to report on several events with some of them being followed up by mainstream media as well. We endeavoured to be objective, inclusive and fearless (though nobody, of course, is perfect!)
Because of the large number of stories we published in issue after issue (and you know we don’t indulge in the copy-and-paste type of journalism that the ethnic media is notorious for!), I decided to concentrate on those that were mainly concerned with B.C., though sometimes issues in the rest of the country as well as outside Canada did matter, too.
There were GOOD stories that serve as an INSPIRATION. But, unfortunately, there were BAD ones too that serve as a WARNING to avoid a criminal style of life.
If you feel something has been left out, rest assured it’s not deliberate. I have tried to convey a broad-based picture of what occurred.
Special thanks goes to our Special Columnist INDIRA PRAHST for her regular contribution of stories from all across Canada and even South Asian and Europe over the years; and Special Columnist KAMAL SHARMA for his regular weekly column on Bollywood (indeed, even when he was travelling abroad!).
Kamal provides you his yearend review in this issue.
Most of the photos carried in this section are by CHANDRA BODALIA who needs no introduction.
And special thanks to JATINDER SINGH BEHL for our excellent Graphics and Layout.
(FOR PHOTOS FOR EACH MONTH PLEASE SEE THE EPAPER)
RAJVINDER KAUR GILL KILLED IN PAKISTAN
In October 2012, when Asian Journal contacted Rajvinder Kaur Gill’s family in the Lower Mainland to verify a story about her having gone missing from her hotel in Lahore, Pakistan, on August 25, they requested this newspaper not to publish anything at that stage because they had reportedly been advised by Pakistani police that it might harm their investigation.
But in January, in Lahore, city police chief Aslam Tareen told the high court that Gill was killed soon after she arrived in the city. Police have arrested a suspect, Hafiz Shahzad Hussain, who has confessed that he and his cousin, Shahid Ghazanfar, had killed Rajvinder. Ghazanfar, the main accused who is a German of Pakistani origin, is believed to have fled to Germany. Police alerted Interpol about him.
Ghazanfar, who had known Rajvindar for a long time, had promised to pay back the money he had borrowed from her when she came to Lahore. Police had yet to recover Gill’s body.
According to a Facebook page set up by her family, Gill moved to Canada 13 years ago with her family and lived in Mission, B.C. She worked for CIBC in Vancouver until 2006. She had recently left her job at a private banking group in Zurich, Switzerland.
CANDLELIGHT VIGILS FOR GANG-RAPED INDIAN STUDENT
Girlkind Foundation (www.girlkind.org) held a candlelight vigil at City Hall in Abbotsford “in honor of the girl named by the media “Nirbhaya,” who was a victim of a brutal crime against humanity.” The 23-year-old student, who was raped by six men (all of whom were arrested after massive protest demonstrations) in a New Delhi bus on December 16, died in Singapore. She had been put on maximum life support at Singapore’s Mt. Elizabeth Hospital where she had been airlifted earlier in the week after a week of intensive care treatment in Delhi. She and a male friend were attacked by the six men on the bus and she was raped. The two were then stripped naked and thrown off the bus. Delhi Police charged five of the accused. The sixth accused, a juvenile, was to be charged separately.
Other groups, including one led by community activists Sukhy Dhillon, Kamlesh Ahir, Surjeet Kalsey, Ajmer Rode, Jay Birdi and artist Jarnail Singh held a candlelight vigil at Surrey’s Holland Park.
A candlelight vigil for the victim was also organized at Surrey’s Laxmi Narayan Mandir.
Global Girl Power also held a vigil at Surrey’s Bear Creek Park.
ORDER OF CANADA: M. G. VENKATESH MANNAR AND ADITYA JHA
South Asians, M. G. Venkatesh Mannar of Ottawa and Aditya Jha of Mississauga, were among the 91 new appointments to Order of Canada announced by Governor General David Johnston. Venkatesh Mannar, who was born in Chennai, India, was appointed Officer to the Order of Canada “for his leadership in the global fight against malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency.” Jha, who was born in a village near the Indo-Nepal border in the state of Bihar in India, was appointed Member of the Order of Canada “for his achievements in business and for his commitment to promoting education and entrepreneurial opportunities for Aboriginal and disadvantaged youth.”
Venkatesh Mannar graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras before doing post-graduate work in chemical engineering at Northwestern University, USA. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Vijaya, has two sons and one granddaughter. Jha started his career in India and then worked in France, Singapore, Australia and South East Asian countries.
KENNEY FACES PROTEST IN AMRITSAR
Even as Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney (seen here at the Golden Temple in Amritsar with Minister of State Tim Uppal and MP Parm Gill on January 11) announced in Amritsar, Punjab, that the number of visitor visas issued from Chandigarh’s Consulate General had tripled since 2005, about 5,200 student permits were issued in 2012 (a 54% approval rate) and over 3,700 Super Visas were issued in 2012 ( an 80% approval rate), he faced demonstrators protesting the cancellation of their applications for immigration because of a change in policy in Canada.
The Hindustan Times newspaper reported that Kenney said: “This decision was taken to streamline the entire visa system as the huge backlog of applicants in India and other countries had created a total mess.”
Meanwhile, the Times of India newspaper said that Punjab’s Minister for Non-Resident Indians, Bikram Singh Majithia, met with Kenney to discuss the need to deal with false immigration agents who were duping innocent persons.
SURREY RCMP CHIEF CRITICIZED AFTER FOUR MURDERS
Surrey RCMP’s Officer in Charge Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy faced a flood of criticism for playing down the gang violence in Surrey after four murders over three days shook up residents. Former solicitor general Kash Heed said: “Innocent people have been caught in the crossfire in this gang warfare. Because it’s so public, the chances of innocent people being killed again are quite significant. Innocent people have been killed in the past.”
On January 13, Manjot Dhillon, 27, of Surrey, associated with the Dhak gang, was fatally shot in the area of 168 Street and 76 Avenue. That same night John Edward McGiveron, 33, and Geordie Wesley Carlow, 33, both of Surrey, who were known to police, were shot dead in a parkade in the 9400 block of 128 Street, but their murders are not believed to be gang-related. On January 15, Manjinder “Manny” Hairan, 29, associated to the Dhak gang, was shot dead in the area of 127 and 112B Avenue and Jujhar Singh Khun-Khun, 25, who is also associated to the same gang, was seriously wounded.
TOIFA AWARDS IN VANCOUVER
Asian Journal was the first to report that “a version of the prestigious Filmfare Awards of the Times of India (TOI) newspaper group for the Bollywood industry is coming to Vancouver in the first week of April. What exactly the awards in Vancouver will be all about is to be officially announced at a press conference on Tuesday (January 22).”
A few days later, Premier Christy Clark announced that the inaugural edition of The Times of India Film Awards (TOIFA) would be held April 4-6 with a Music Extravaganza at Pacific Coliseum, screenings of popular Bollywood films in multiplexes across British Columbia, TOIFA Red Carpet and Awards Extravaganza at BC Place with Shah Rukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, and many more.
BASSI BROTHERS ACQUITTED IN ASSAULT CASE
Richmond brothers Ravinder and Parminder Bassi were both acquitted in Vancouver Provincial Court on the charge of assault causing bodily harm for allegedly attacking David Holtzman, now deceased, and his partner Peter Regier outside their Keefer Street apartment in downtown Vancouver near Rogers Arena on June 12, 2010. The case highlighted the danger of witnesses exaggerating and perhaps even resorting to lies just to win a case. Fortunately, the wise judge did not get carried away by the emotionally charged atmosphere. The Bassi brothers were also accused of having used homophobic slurs during the alleged assault and the gay community in particular were looking forward to seeing the brothers convicted.
MANRAJ AKALIRAI BRUTALLY MURDERED
Manraj Akalirai, 19, who had recently graduated from Gladstone High School, was brutally murdered with a sword and other weapons on Wednesday night on Elgin Street near East 47th Avenue in Vancouver. Police said: “The victim does not have a criminal record, but he is known to police. Early indications are that this was a targeted attack.” It is thought the attack was drug-related and may have had a loose gang connection. This was Vancouver’s first homicide of the year. Akalirai was taking criminology at Langara College. Police arrested five men, ranging in age from 19 to 21, believed to be involved in the attack, but they were all later released.
BLOOD DRIVE: SIKH YOUTH RECOGNIZED
Sikh Nation organized an appreciation event to thank the 130 Sikh youth who volunteered their time for the Campaign Against Genocide Blood Donation drive. Sikh youth with their parents, community leaders, some academics and members from Canadian Blood Services were present to honor the youth.
The purpose of the annual blood drive in November is to remember the innocent victims who were murdered in the organized massacre against Sikhs in Delhi in 1984, which has been defined as a Sikh Genocide.
Sikh Nation was lauded for their remarkable success in saving more than 81,000 lives in Canada with their blood donation drive. According to Sunil Kumar, one of the event and campaign organizers, their goal is “to make people aware of the Sikh Genocide and other genocides that have occurred in India” and the importance of saving lives through their life saving campaign.
JASKARAN SINGH SANDHU KILLED IN SURREY
Even as the cry for a regional police force to deal with escalating gang violence in B.C. grew, a third South Asian male, known to police, was found murdered in Surrey on January 28.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) announced on Tuesday that the body found on Monday at about 9:20 a.m. in a grassy area on the side of the road in the 12300 block of Colebrook Road in South Surrey, a rural area north of Highway 99 on the Surrey / Delta border was that of 26-year-old Jaskaran Singh Sandhu.
IHIT Cpl. Adam MacIntosh said: “Mr. Sandhu was known to police and the victim of a targeted attack. Investigators continue to search for the motive behind his killing, including the possibility of being gang-related.”
In September 2011, Sandhu was shot at a Mr. Lube car service centre at 2773 Barnett Highway near Coquitlam Centre Mall.
DASMESH UNITED FC’S WOMEN’S TEAM
The Dasmesh United FC’s women’s team won the Metro Women’s Soccer League’s U21 Cup play and were crowned the BC Soccer Association’s U21 Provincial champs. This season the team was promoted to Division 1, and went on to place first (in Division 1 North) with a record of 8 wins, 2 losses and 4 draws, and will now be looking for a promotion into the select division next year.
Team members: Natasha Basarm, Dara Rykiss, Ratikha Grewal, Puneet Rangi, Meaghan Grant, Kajal Paramr, Robyn Gill, Jasmine Lagrido, Gurpreet Kang, Gurleen Sanghera, Annie Noble, Jagvir Raun, Jotie Sidhu, Flo Cepeda, Sukhjot Hayer, Jessica Sidhu, Anita Diaz, Gurinder Biring, Inder Biring, Yusra Said, Simi Dosanjh, Taylor Davis and Rob Sangara (coach).
64TH REPUBLIC DAY OF INDIA CELEBRATED
India’s 64th Republic Day was celebrated by the Indian Consulate General in Vancouver with a flag-hoisting ceremony in the morning, followed by a banquet and a cultural program at the downtown Vancouver Empire Landmark Hotel in the evening that was attended by prominent South Asians, including MLAs Raj Chouhan, Jagrup Brar and Dave Hayer and former attorney general Wally Oppal. Indian Consul General Ravi Shankar Aisola and his wife Priti, and Consul and Head of Chancery R. Chandramouli hosted the events.
Premier Christy Clark was represented by Ralph Sultan, Minister of State for Seniors, who highlighted the increasing trade between B.C. and India and the important role of South Asians in the province.